PHARMACY

Massachusetts named top e-prescribing state as Kerry, Gingrich push health technology

BY Jim Frederick

WASHINGTON Proving that not only politics but health care can make strange bedfellows, Massachusetts Senator and former Democratic presidential contender John Kerry and Newt Gingrich, former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and Republican firebrand, joined forces in a high-profile event yesterday to spur the nationwide rollout of electronic prescribing and health information technology.

The two former political adversaries appeared at a press conference to announce the third annual Safe-Rx Awards presented by e-prescribing platform provider SureScripts and its two founding organizations, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores and the National Community Pharmacists Association. The award, which honors the state that has done the most over the past year to promote e-prescribing, went this year to Massachusetts.

The Bay State ranks first in the nation when it comes to transmitting prescriptions electronically, according to the results of a nationwide audit. Physicians in Massachusetts transmitted more than 4 million scripts electronically in 2007, or 13.4 percent of the state total, according to SureScripts president and chief executive officer Rick Ratliff, who together with Gingrich hosted the event.

“This is a proud moment for the state of Massachusetts, as the nation’s leader in e-prescribing and a star innovator of medical technology for the world,” said Kerry, who accepted the award. “I am thrilled to receive this award on behalf of my state and its care providers, and it is with their tireless work in mind that I will fight to pass the electronic prescribing legislation I have introduced in the Senate.”

In December, Kerry and Nevada Republican Sen. John Ensign led a bipartisan effort to introduce the Medicare Electronic Medication and Safety Protection Act. The so-called E-MEDS bill, if passed, would reimburse doctors for investing in e-prescribing technology, along with incentive payments each time a script is transmitted electronically and the claim is submitted through Medicare.

Gingrich has devoted himself in recent years to overhauling the health care system as founder and head of the Center for Health Transformation. At the press event, he called the Safe-Rx Awards “a wonderful way to recognize the accomplishments of local groups that are working hard to collaborate on creative strategies and solutions to accelerate the adoption of e-prescribing.

“Everyone knows that e-prescribing saves lives, is much more efficient, allows for better outcomes, and reduces costs for everyone,” Gingrich said. “We should all be encouraging our physicians to use this kind of practical technology to protect their patients.”

Rounding out this year’s top e-prescribing states were Rhode Island, Nevada, Delaware, Michigan, Maryland, North Carolina, Arizona, Connecticut and Washington.

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Von Eschenbach, Leavitt visit Dr. Reddy’s facility in India

BY DSN STAFF

HYDERABAD, India In January 2008 Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach and Secretary of Health and Human Services Michael Leavitt visited a Dr. Reddy’s facility near the pharmaceutical manufacturer’s headquarters here.

Leavitt was focused on assuring the quality of the products as well as creating collaborations beyond borders while von Eschenbach, also concerned with the safety and quality of products, focused on the transparency of the manufacturing process.

Dr. Reddy’s was the only facility in India the two visited as part of a multi-national effort to ensure the safety of the pharmaceutical supply chain.

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Congressional report estimates CMS changes would cost states $50 billion in federal aid

BY Drew Buono

WASHINGTON According to a congressional report prepared by the Democratic staff on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, proposed changes to Medicaid would cost states about $50 billion in federal aid over the next five years, the Associated Press reported.

“As the economy tips into recession, the last thing we should be doing is taking federal funds from states, especially funds that are supposed to help people with their health and medical expenses,” said committee chairman, Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif.

Federal officials, though, are arguing that the changes are designed to ensure that providers don’t bill the program for more than costs of providing care and also say that the states pay their fare share of the program.

Tthe proposed new rules include limiting Medicaid public hostpital reimbursement to no more than the cost of providing a particular service. Another would prohibit billing Medicaid for the costs of medical interns and residents.

Overall, the federal government will spend more than $1.2 trillion on Medicaid over the next five years. The administration projects that if all the changes it seeks were enacted, the federal government would save about $13 billion over those five years.

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